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SXSW: 3 Key Lessons for an Omnichannel Future

For many, the cancellation of SXSW 2020 was the moment the pandemic became real. Now, one year later and living in a more hopeful time, SXSW once again secures its spot as a predictor of the future. With multiple options for content, connection, and consumption, SXSW has set the stage for what omnichannel events can and should be. We see potential for SXSW to do even more in the future.

Our 360 Live Media team had both seasoned and first-time attendees go through the experience, and it was a lot of fun to hear each other’s perspectives. Here are our key takeaways:

Organize Content by Channels

While they still offered an overwhelming amount of searchable content (more than 100 concurrent sessions in certain timeslots), there were “pre fixe tasting menus” available across five  channels each day. Each channel served up a selection of SXSW sessions, and in the evening switched over to music, film, and comedy. Anyone could ‘set it and forget it’ to a channel and still get a great flavor of what SXSW is about. The channels created a sense of discovery since you would happen across a new music act or a cool session simply by tuning in.

  • Takeaway: The best experience is one that is organized to help the attendees navigate easily. And there is a compromise for those who have a lot of content to share. Publish everything you need to, but create the focused paths to give audiences an overall sampling of the best of the event and allowing room for discovery.
  • Yes, And… The channel experience could have been improved even further if the channels had been organized by theme, instead of what felt to be a random sampling. Also, creating a first-timers track would have been a great way to build stickiness with a new audience.

Meet Your Audience Wherever They Are

SX offered official content via a web browser, a native mobile app, through connected TV apps, within a virtual reality space, via Clubhouse, and over multiple music platforms. It was simple to consume sessions no matter where you were. We attended sessions via the mobile app while grocery shopping and on our TVs while folding laundry. When we were ready to close down our laptops and step away from the Zoom fatigue from the day, we could still binge-watch the conference and enjoy it in a different way. It was also very easy to shop, connect, and chat through the mobile app, so stepping away from the computer screen didn’t mean we had to give up any functionality.

  • Takeaway: Providing ways to consume content and connect away from the laptop screen can lead to more engagement with the event. As you consider event platforms for your event, be sure there is a native mobile app option.
  • Yes, And… Intentionally designing experiences that are meant to be consumed outside the screen, like walk-and-talks, audio-only sessions, or scavenger hunts, can get the audience learning and connecting in new ways.

Use the Digital to Provide Things You Can’t In-Person

SXSW is all about FOMO, and a good portion of it is waiting in line to maybe (or maybe not) get into a session, band, or special experience. One of the great things about the digital experience, which was echoed by many other attendees in the chat, was that we could see almost everything, without having to trek from hotel-to-hotel and wait in lines. We could see band showcases, catch recordings of missed sessions, and easily join different experiences by opening a new tab.

  • Takeaway: Nothing replaces the energy and excitement of being in-person, but digital creates opportunities to enhance the event. Take a moment to unpack the special things that digital can provide to your attendees and be sure to play those up as part of the value proposition for the digital experience.
  • Yes, And… When SXSW goes back to in-person, we hope the digital music and content showcases remain. It would not replace the event, but it could provide enough value for us to still purchase tickets for the years we can’t attend in-person.  


Want to hear more about our experience? Catch the recording of our latest EIX where we share our highlights from the event.

Want to spitball a few ideas and see how we may be able to help?

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